The Business of Being Human

Why do we feel a stronger affinity to some companies more than others? You know the ones I’m talking about, companies that make your face light up when a friend asks you about them. It’s more than just fancy marketing pitches or a few cool products.

Why do we feel a stronger affinity to some companies more than others?
You know the ones I’m talking about, companies that make your face light up
when a friend asks you about them. I’m
guessing it’s more than just fancy marketing pitches or a few cool products.


What makes them really stand out in your mind?

Are they the ones that make it really easy for you to speak with an
actual human? Do they respond to your
tweets right away, engage on social with you, and offer creative contests / promotions? Maybe they even create a $1 Million Integration Fund to support really cool businesses integrating with their product (*cough* Mailchimp *cough*).

To weigh in on the subject, I’ve called upon Jonathan Kay, Ambassador
of Buzz (yes that’s his real title–something you could only find at a startup),
with Grasshopper.


Thanks Shawn. This whole idea
of “being human” is something I’ve really embraced head on while building out
Grasshopper’s Buzz Dept over the last 2 years.
About a year into the job I began realizing that “good things” I did,
and 1 on 1 conversations I had months back were starting to yield real
results. When I say “results” I am
referring to signups, press, and/or word of mouth referrals–actual measurable

My goal for the remainder of this blog post is to convince you that
being human, and engaging your community is profitable (and not just something
people talk about in business books and at conferences). I am going to give some tips/examples of
things I have seen work, and well, some things that #fail’ed.



People are always asking me, “How do you
track what you are doing?”–“What is the monetary value?” Well let’s dive right into one of my favorite
stats. When people search for your
website they either come in through a “branded term” or a “product specific
term.” For us, a branded term could be
“Grasshopper” while a product specific term would be “800 numbers.” Before our Buzz Dept existed only about 8% of our paid search
traffic was on branded terms. Now it’s
important to note that branded terms cost about $0.87 while product specific
terms (that many more people are bidding on) cost about $6-7 a click! Two years later, nearly 45% of our paid
search traffic is now coming in through branded terms. Think about how much
money that saves our company–thousands upon thousands of dollars each year …

of Mouth Converts

About 18 months ago we created an
internal application on called “refer an entrepreneur” (you
will notice this button on every page of our site). Very simply this is a platform that allows
users to very easily refer a fellow entrepreneur to use our product (we empower
that entrepreneur with a $25 discount to give their friend). Over a year’s worth of analytics, we learned
that these peer to peer referrals were converting at nearly 20%!! while most
organic website traffic converts at 0.8-1.5%.


On top of that, we’ve done extensive
research on the data collected when someone says “how they heard about us” on
our signup page. I fell out of my chair
smiling when I saw that we are consistently getting 26-33% of our weekly
signups from someone who heard about us from a “Friend, Colleague, or Family
member” (and yes we automatically rotate which dropdown option is on the
top). In fact, some weeks we are getting
more signups via word of mouth than we do from people who find us online!

How do you ignore that??

Action Has Value


I recently stumbled on some awesome research
from the guys at about the value of social action. You should read
their case study, but here is a brief overview:

Facebook Share =

Facebook Like =


Tweet = $5

Follow = $2

Example of a #Fail? Of course!


In my 727 days of using Twitter, I have
yet to receive an automated direct message which added any value. Nor have I ever met someone who has had
something positive come from an automated DM (by the way, if you have a story I
beg you to please email me or share in the comments section).

Then why send them you ask?

It’s cheap (free) and easy. People see an easy way to get “their brand”
in front of someone so they take it. The
point is, this will get you nowhere.
What you should do is invest 28 seconds of your time in reading that
persons twitter profile and maybe even visiting their website.


This is what happens when you take the
time to be human:

Grasshopper referral

About an hour and a half later, Herb and
I ended up hoping on a quick phone call to see if there were any synergies /
what we could do to help each other.
Turned out there was a ton of overlap and we have been working ever
since on a partnership. And it took 28
seconds of his time.


(Note I have endless screen shots/examples I can give you)

Screen shot 2011-03-15 at 5.45.56 PM

are you convinced being human is better business?


Jonathan Kay is the Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper, a provider of virtual phone systems for entrepreneurs. He is extremely passionate about helping / meeting new entrepreneurs and always excited to learn about their unique journey. Find Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanCKay or via email at

Graham collaborates with small- to medium-sized companies to develop impactful
social media and marketing communications content and strategies and seasoned
job seekers to help them find their true north. Find Shawn at


About the author

Shawn Graham partners with small businesses to create, implement, and manage performance-driven marketing strategies. His knowledge base includes media relations, business development, customer engagement, web marketing, and strategic planning